Sunday, June 01, 2008

Sunday Scribbling--Curves

Hold Everything


A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.

John Keats

I couldn’t think of what to write on this topic. I thought of telling you about the infamous “S Curve” in Chicago, a dangerous bit of Lake Shore Drive, now smoothed out. But that seemed a bit trivial and boring to one who has never driven it. Then it hit me. Curves, as in women’s curves.
This week I flagged an article in Time magazine (June 9, 2008 issue, link is,28804,1703763_1703764,00.html) relating to eating disorders. It references a study of an intervention in classrooms to make girls and women less fixated on the American ideal of thinness. I consult to a high school in my area and I thought that this intervention might be worth reading up on as of possible utility in this school.
I frequently deal with women, girls, and, more rarely, boys and men, with eating disorders. At their most severe form, these disorders scare me. At the less severe end of the spectrum, they make me angry. How many times have I told women that curves are normal, that a flat stomach is neither necessary nor ideal? I tell them that we would be hard pressed to find a girl or woman in this country who doesn’t feel critical of at least one part of her body, whether it is thighs, abdomen, breasts, skin, nose or neck. Ask yourself: what part of your body do you hate the most? I think most of us can answer that one in around 10 seconds or less because the answer has been well-rehearsed in hours of self-consciousness or self-hatred.
Around 13 years ago, I burned myself by spilling hot coffee on my hip. I realized that I would likely get a scar as a result. Being in my mid 30’s it occurred to me that I had found one advantage of aging. I didn’t care if a scar marred my look in a bikini. What a liberating feeling! Now, I’m not saying that I would be indifferent to putting on 30 pounds. I’m as much a product of our society as the next person. But I aspire to make it to a ripe old age without a face lift, liposuction or Botox. I will admit that I have been tempted by a good chemical peel although I haven’t tried one yet. I’m not dyeing my hair either although I only have a handful of gray hairs (which I wear with a degree of pride).
Obesity is a serious problem in this country so I am not arguing against diet and exercise for those that need it, even gastric bypass as a worst case scenario. What I am fighting against is the legions of young people I meet nearly daily who hate their bodies, who measure self esteem by how tight their jeans fit that week, who value five pounds more or less as more important than their many meaningful accomplishments.
A thing of beauty is a joy forever. The important thing is to stick to meaningful definitions of beauty.

For more reading and viewing check out Lauren Greenfield’s website,, about her documentary, Thin.

Preparing this article has added a couple new books to my wish list.


Andrée said...

Excellent. There are two fifth grade girls in my homeroom who suddenly stopped eating lunch this winter. The staff that noticed passed on the word and we all began talking to all the girls. I was amazed by the amount of knowledge and support for these girls. I still worry, even though they are eating again, because I know this can sneak up on them at any moment. Yet despite all of our knowledge, the advertisers and TV shows are unrelenting in giving us skinny images.

self taught artist said...

good post woman!
i too am caring less than i used to, i think it ended when i decided this year to stop plucking those surrounding gray face hairs. its exhausting to spend so much time making the outer shell look a certain way. i wish people could spend 1/2 the time working on their emotional health and brains that they do on their bodies.
and when did we decide fat was so awful looking? being rail thin is uglier than being 100 lbs overweight in my mind. at least obese people aren't all wrinkled and if you want to get picky they actually look younger than skinny people do.

Granny Smith said...

One of the advantages of getting as old as I am (87) is that you know there is only so much that can be done to improve one's appearance. I do watch my weight, but that is as much to keep from straining arthritic joints as it is for vanity - although I am pleased that my slacks and skirts look OK on me. I like a good haircut for my white hair, I rub lotion on my wrinkles, wear becoming clothes and figure there's not much more I can do. Very liberating!

gautami tripathy said...

Body image has taklen precedence over more important issues. Truly sad..